NEWS
03/31/2016 07:11 EDT | Updated 04/01/2017 01:12 EDT

Gender-stereotyped Ottawa summer camps rebranded after criticism

An Ottawa community centre has rebranded two summer camps that drew criticism from parents and one city councillor for splitting activities by gender. Boys were being offered paintball, video games and car maintenance while girls were offered self-esteem workshops, fitness boot camp and lessons on "making healthy snacks."

The Dovercourt Recreation Centre's programs, geared to children age 10 to 13, had originally divided activities into those for "Just Girls" and "Just Guys." 

The activities included an exercise and diet program called "Fit Chicks," for girls, and "Man Cave," a space for boys to play video games and card games.

The programs came to light after Ottawa mother and feminist blogger Ariel Troster first spotted similarly gendered offerings in the community of Richmond Hill, Ont.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Troster called out both municipalities for the anachronistic pigeonholing of girls and boys activities.

'Why reinforce such blatant sexism?'

"The worst part of all of this is how these camps are training young girls to be perfect housewives. In 2016. You'll notice that basic food preparation is not included in any of the listed activities for boys," she wrote.

"Kids have a long future of resisting the misogyny ahead of them. Why reinforce such blatant sexism in programming geared toward children?"

Troster reached out to city councillors and got a response from Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, who said the programs offered were "unacceptable" and that he'd talk with the recreation association.

Dovercourt Recreation Association executive director John Rapp said he saw the conversation begin on Twitter Tuesday night and said it made the centre reconsider its promotions.

'They were right,' says Dovercourt head

"We pretty much decided they were right," said Rapp. "The content should be promoted as interest-driven rather than gender-specific."

Instead of "Just Girls" and "Just Guys", the camps are now called Youth Zone day camps.

The program "Fit Chicks" has been rebranded "Activate," while a bike and auto mechanic program has been renamed from "Grease Monkeys" to "Ratchet and Gears."

Rapp said the centre started offering camps exclusively for girls and boys about a decade ago in response to demand. He said he believed the camps attracted negative attention this year because of how the promotions were worded.

Rapp said while both camps included information on making healthy snacks, only the "Just Girls" camp mentioned it.

"We had drifted into the trap of sexual stereotyping of content and how they were represented," he said.